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Edition 194 – The Employee Life Cycle

I knew things weren’t good when I turned up to my meeting with one of my long standing great clients. The atmosphere in the room gave it away immediately. There had been some bad news.

This client’s business is blue collar based. The work is very physical. It’s hard to find good people and when they leave, it creates a big vacuum in the business. Managers are dragged back into technician roles whilst the task of recruiting and training new staff takes place.

On this particular day, it was a long standing employee. After six years, the individual had had enough and they were on their way. This family business had experienced a run of departures of late, all of whom were trained and experienced employees. In saying that, some of the recent departures had adopted recalcitrant traits in the last one to two years of their employment, which had been largely ignored by management.

As I waded through the pall of doom in the room, I started asking questions such as:

  1. How long does it take to train a new employee up to speed?
  2. What documented training process do you have in place?
  3. Who is responsible for the training?
  4. How long does the typical employee stick around for?
  5. What is the reason they usually give for leaving?

In the space of a couple of hours, we figured out that it takes around 6 months to have a new employee up to speed – but that they’re very productive within 2 weeks of their start date.

We also worked out the typical employee’s length of tenure was between 18 and 24 months. It’s the physical demands of the work and the repetitive nature of it that sees people move on. It’s just that the recent run of outs was of employees who had unusually long employment tenures.

By the end of the meeting, the doom had lifted, like a heavy fog by mid morning. Just as the warming sun dissipates the fog, the line of questioning and the move out of an operational mindset to a strategic mindset had meant the management team realising:

  1. They can onboard new employees much faster than they had thought.
  2. They can have a new employee trained in all facets of the equipment and a great proportion of the processes in a week.
  3. They needed a documented, modular training process in place to fast track new employees.
  4. That a constant recruitment process would need to be initiated.
  5. What the early warning signs are of an impending employee departure.

People will always come and go in every family business. The key for the owners and managers of those businesses is to understand what the employee life cycle is so that any changes can be managed with minimal business disruption.

If you understand your employee life cycle, you understand how you need to inculcate recruitment, training, performance management and reward systems into your regular business operations.